A jig is widely considered to be one of the most versatile bass fishing lures in existence. It’s effective throughout the warm summer months and even in the frigid winter and is a centerpiece of many anglers’ tackle arsenal.
If you’re not familiar with how to fish for bass with a jig, I’ve compiled this article with some of the best tips for catching bass with a jig at any time of the year.
Table of Contents
What is a Jig?
When it comes to fishing, there are several different tackle items that are commonly referred to as a jig. The particular jig we’ll be discussing in this article is the one that is used exclusively in bass fishing and a few other freshwater game fish species. A bass fishing jig consists of a heavy, weighted ‘head’ that’s connected to the hook itself. The jig’s head is almost always adorned with a skirt and also has a weed guard attached as well. It may also be used with a trailer in some situations but can function quite well without one.
There are many different kinds of jig head styles, sizes, and materials that anglers use in certain situations for the best possible results. My personal favorite jigs are made with tungsten heads. Tungsten is heavier than lead weights, which means you can use a smaller size jig that will still weigh the same as an older lead weight jig head for purposes like fishing along a rock ledge, pitching under docks, and other scenarios.
The purpose of the jig is to mimic or very closely resemble a small fish or crawfish. In my experience, I’ve found that a jig often works best when I want to fool the bass into thinking my lure is a crawfish that’s working its way along the bottom of the lake or around heavy cover. I like to use a football head jig with a craw trailer for fishing deep points and channels, but I’ll use a flipping jig or missile jig when I’m trying to flip the lure underneath docks and other types of cover.
I’ll examine these unique lures in more detail in the following sections and note some of the ways you can fish for bass with a jig in a way that is simple, yet effective.
How to Fish a Jig
It’s important that you are using a baitcaster rod and reel combo with your jig as this will allow you to have a better ability to cast where you want into tight windows, as well as to have greater sensitivity that makes it easier to feel fish biting the lure. I like to use a reel that offers a gear ratio of at least 6.2:1 because this allows me to gather my line up quickly and maintain a tight line in case I get a bite. A medium-heavy rod is typically my go-to as it’s limber enough to cast lightweight jigs and strong enough to crank big fish out of cover if I need to.
Fishing a jig is relatively simple and easy to get the hang of, even for beginner anglers. You can fish a jig through heavy cover, or across points and virtually anywhere else bass are usually staging. There really isn’t any magic formula when it comes to fishing a jig, the main difference between anglers who are successful with a jig and those who are not comes down to their ability to sense when a fish is biting.
Jig Fishing Strategy
You’ll need to decide whether you want your jig to look like a fish or crawfish underwater as this will dictate the technique you use. If I’m going to try to mimic a crawfish, I’ll usually fish the jig with a slower retrieve and more deliberate twitches upward instead of dragging it along the bottom. Crawfish usually have a dark red coloration, so keep this in mind when you’re targeting bass that are looking for craws.
When fishing the jig as a baitfish, you’ll want to give off the appearance of a small fish that’s working its way across the bottom, feeding as it moves along. If I’m trying to give off the appearance of a baitfish, I’ll use more subtle movements when twitching the jig along, as well as a more steady, quicker retrieve in most cases. Colors like watermelon-red, or those with purple or blue tend to work best as these will usually resemble certain types of baitfish.
Jig Fishing Techniques
You should always tailor your jig fishing technique to the scenario you’re facing instead of trying to use a one-size-fits-all approach to this lure. There are many schools of thought when it comes to just how to fish for bass with a jig, but a select few are among those that professional anglers consider to be most effective.
Here are some of the most productive jig designs and their accompanying techniques to use when fishing for bass.
Standard (Football) Jig
The most common way to fish a jig for bass involves a very simple technique in which you will cast your jig out and methodically bounce it along the bottom as you retrieve it. This will work surprisingly well at just about any time of year and I typically like to use a football head jig for the standard technique.
If you’re using this technique, focus on depth changes like ledges, points or channels and try to feel the bottom as you’re working it back in. A football head is designed to keep the jig’s body upright instead of tipping over to one side, so this will be effective in catching bass that are hanging out around depth changes.
One of the other most popular methods for jig fishing for bass involves using a swim jig. This lure has a distinct jig head that’s crafted to look like the head of a minnow, which allows it to ‘swim’ through the water. I like to use this technique around grass or even open water with either a steady retrieve, or a yo-yo technique. Remember that your goal is to make the jig look like a fish, so keep it off the bottom and avoid dragging it.
A finesse jig is quite different in a variety of ways from the others you might find. I always go with a tungsten finesse jig because it allows me to use a smaller profile than lead, which also helps when working it in and out of brush piles and other types of cover. I like to use a spinning rod and reel for finesse jigs as they are usually smaller and lighter than others. You can drag, bounce or swim the finesse jig in and around cover, but the key to getting bites with this one is to be gentle and don’t twitch or rip it too hard.
Pitching (Flipping) Jig
One of the fastest-growing jig techniques is pitching, especially since a few rising professional anglers have found paydirt using this method in recent years. Pitching should always be done carefully as you can get snagged or drive the fish away by scaring them if you fail to pitch the jig into the window you’re aiming at. If you’re going to rely on this method and you really want to become proficient at it, you should consider purchasing a baitcaster rod and reel that’s specifically designed for flipping or pitching jigs.
With this method, you’ll want to be fairly close to your target and pitch the jig into tight windows between branches, under docks and trees or into other areas, then twitch it two or three times before pulling it back in and hitting another target. It’s a unique way of using a jig to fish around cover in a ‘search-and-destroy’ method that can be highly productive when bass are holding very close to cover.
Try to be quiet when using this technique as you can easily spook any nearby fish by making a large splash, or especially by nailing a dock with your jig head. The key to flipping jigs is to keep it short and sweet, once you make your cast and twitch the jig a few times, back out and pitch it into another window. Bites you get on this method will usually be reaction bites, so don’t waste time if you don’t feel a bite within about 10 seconds of hitting the water.
Punching jigs are used to literally punch through thick vegetation where virtually no other lure is capable of going. The jig’s design includes a heavy, pointed head that will work to help the lure make it through the vegetation or other cover you’re casting into and right into those pockets where big bass like to hide out.
Always use braided line when punching jigs through vegetation or into heavy cover as you’re going to be pulling in a bass, plus lots of weeds, or other vegetation with it. Punching jigs work very well for getting through matted grass and I usually cast them high up, which lets the heavy jig fall down with more momentum to help it punch through.
Be ready to catch monster bass using this technique as punching jigs work to get your lure into areas where bass virtually never see anything except real prey and will bite in an instant.
Becoming a jig fishing expert requires you to practice a great deal with each one of these 5 different jig fishing techniques throughout the year. If you do this, you’ll understand why so many professional anglers rely on a jig to catch bass in almost any type of scenario, regardless of the season or weather conditions.